Friday, January 15, 2010


Val, my cat, on my desk

Here is an experimental blog post - a straight-up diary of my day.

So...

This was my day...

Got up, nudged Mulan along as she groggily got dressed for school.   Got her breakfast and made some coffee.  Helped her look through her homework to make sure everything was done.  Nudged her to finish a math page and a bonus challenge homework page.  Gave her a pre-test for her spelling quiz.  Nudged her to get her teeth brushed and especially to floss.

After she left I took the dog, Arden on a walk to Lake Michigan.  I listened on my iphone to an audio biography about Paul Durac, a British Theoretical Physicist.  I am convinced he had asperger syndrome only the biographer doesn't mention that.  I get jelous of Dirac's life where everything is arranged so he can work constantly, I wish I had a Mancy (his wife's name) who made sure I was undisturbed, had food, and could take long walks.  Today as I walk it's very deceptively icy. The sidewalks look clear but they have the thinnest layer of ice. I almost fall down a hundred times.  I don't like the cold today.   The lake is sad looking, a lot of dirty looking piled up snow on the edge of the lake. I look closer and see that what I thought was dirt is really sand.  I marvel at Lake Michigan and all it's sand.

Get home and Michael is completely absorbed in some lighting project at the house.  He is a man obsessed with lighting.  He wants to program every single light in our house so that we can stand at the door and push one button and every light we don't want on will go off. This requires a lot of work, hooking up this outlet but not that one, etc.  He is frustrated with the software for the program and it's the third incarnation of this software he has worked with. He has been up for two nights until at least one or two a.m. working on the lighting project.  I kid with him and say, when he gets it done I expect him to say with glee, "Now all you have to do to turn down the lights in the family room is log onto this website on your computer, enter a certain number, and the light will automatically dim!"  He does not like my joke because you see, it's not really a joke.

I leave and go get a mammogram. I have not had one for a few years. I, having had cervical cancer, should be more vigilant, but I have let things go.  I get to the Evanston Medical Center and read the book I am completely absorbed in. "Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver.  It's such a great book, a fictionalized account of a young Mexican American in the thirties who befriends Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and Trotsky.   I am pulled out of my reverie by a stern woman asking me to put on a gown.  The gown is awkwardly configured so even after you tie it in the places it wants to be tied, you have to hold it closed otherwise your whole front shows as you walk down the hallway to the mammogram machine.  The woman inside is friendly and I'm thankful for her warm hands as she manipulates my breasts this way and that.  I think about what a weird job she has.  I wonder if she says to people, "I just sort of fell into it."  There is no hidden meaning in that configuration of words, I just wonder if that's the phrase she'd use.

As I leave we discuss the gowns.  She agrees, they suck.

I leave and take a moment to consider that I could get a bad response on my mammogram and have cancer. I fantasize what I would do if I learned I had only one year to live.  I decide that I would just go places to look at animals and nature and the sky at night.  I would go to the Galapagos, or Hawaii and just sit and watch. I don't need to see any more people, I've seen big cities, but I've done it.  I get it.  Big vibrant city.  I crave quiet and nature without people.  I decide that I would have to pull Mulan out of school to go with me to Hawaii or the Galapagos.  Of course Michael would have to come, he'd have to shut down his business and come.  Jill Sobule would have to come too, as well as Jim Emerson.  I guess there'd be some people.   Then I think, it would be bad for Mulan to be pulled out of school right now because  she is really doing well and loves her school.  Then I remember this is all a fantasy.  I blink back tears and come back to life.

I go to my favorite bread store in Evanston.  It's Friday and I get challah.   I don't ask for challah bread.  I used to do that.  Then Michael told me that was like asking for Guinness beer.  You just say Guinness, not Guinness beer, just as you just say challah.  We like to buy challah for french toast on Sundays.   I don't have Mulan with me but I remember while I'm at this store that this was where Mulan made her first decent pun.  She said they should put a sign out on Fridays saying, "Celebrate, it's Challah-Day!"   While I'm at the bread store I also get a turkey sandwich on their popeye bread.  It's so good, it's worth all the points.

I come home and eat my sandwich while I watch some TV footage about Haiti. I get really upset.  I start to cry.  It all seems so hopeless.  What if you were stuck and had so much time before you died to know it was going to happen?  Or worse, you didn't know if your loved ones were okay or not.  Or even what just really happened out there.  This is happening to someone right now.  This makes my heart heave.

I answer a few phone calls.  I speak with a woman at Minnesota Public Radio about doing a show at the Fitzgerald theater in St. Paul in March.  It seems like it's going to happen.  Then I do some business paperwork, for example, I send $1000 to Sony for the rights to sing "Is That All There Is" in "Letting Go of God" for one year.

Then I try to write.  I decide my book of essays is not as important as "My Beautiful Loss Of Faith Story" the book i've been working on for years. I wonder if I can reach my goal of finishing it this year. I wonder how many years I've had this goal. I feel depressed.  I remember we have no food in the house and Mulan is bringing a friend home after school.   I go to the grocery store.  I buy chicken noodle soup and oyster crackers for Mu and her friend to have after school.  This is Mu's big TV day.  She cannot watch any TV during the week, but on Friday after school it's a TV free-for-all.  I also buy vegetables and after I come home, I quickly make a pasta sauce in the slow cooker.

I run to meet Mu after school, but I am a few minutes late and she is nearly home and I end up meeting her half way. She has her friend with her. Mu got 100% on her spelling quiz and I am elated.  I heat up the chicken soup for them.  Nadia comes over to watch the girls because I have a hair appt.  Michael has gone to work.  I get my hair cut really short. I really look like a nun now. And I like it.  I feel I am in "A Nun's Story" as I leave the hair salon.  I tell myself that if my hair is going to be this short I really have to remember to wear lipstick.  I love my hair dresser.  She gets my hair.

I come home from the salon and Michael is already home and working on his lighting project again. Mulan is upstairs in our room watching TV.  I make everyone eat the pasta and sauce.  It's only okay, not great.    I beg everyone to watch the Netflix movie I have, "Winged Migration."  I already saw it when it came out (in 2000) but it was so great - all about various birds' migrations across the earth.  Michael wants to work on the lighting project, Mulan wants to watch iCarly, they don't want to watch it.  I'm too tired to do anything useful.  I briefly decide to go read my book in the basement, but then rally and force everyone to stop what they're doing and watch "Winged Migration."  I really have to push.  I momentarily hate everyone and wonder why I'm doing this.   I think that if I'm going to die in a year I really must finish the screenplay that Jim Emerson and I are working on. We are having so much fun.  Working with Jim has been one of my life's great joys.  Just as I'm giving up on Mu and Michael they agree, yes, let's watch the movie together.  I suddenly feel a huge surge of love for them.

Before we watch the movie, we make popcorn in the microwave.  Michael has experimented and experimented and if you take 1/4 cup of popcorn and a dab of oil and put it in a kid's paper lunch bag and staple the top, zap it for exactly 2 minutes, it turns out great.

We watch.  Michael loves the film but is skeptical about how much they doctored itto get certain types of shots.  Mulan is rapt with the film, and so is Arden - it's the first time my dog watched most of a movie.  But when it's over Mulan announces she's thrilled she's now let out of this horrible prison I've put her in, forcing her to watch this movie.  Also, she announces that she will never eat a bird.

Ohmygod, I love my family so much.

Mulan goes to her room, Michael goes back to the lighting project, and I come in here and write about my day.


49 comments:

Sam said...

There IS something about lights. All my life I have fiddled with the lights in our various houses. I grew up in a one-story house in Central NJ that had only five rooms and no lamps.

After my father left, the living room became my bedroom, since my sisters each had to have their own room. Mom was weird. But when you become the "man of the house" at age seven, everything that happens seems normal, because you don't know what's normal anymore.

I grew to detest overhead lights. Still do. Everywhere we go I am working to get the lighting just right. Must be as natural as possible, and any lamps must be low to the floor. I like tract lighting, and even those strings of theater lights in the hallway and on the stairs.

Nothing sets mood and energy better in a home than the proper placement and play of lights. Except maybe a full-house surround-sound stereo system.

Bubba77 said...

Julia,

Let me cheer you up. Remember the song "Dog and Butterfly" by Heart? Well, if you look up in the sky and find the constellation called "Orion", you may notice its hourglass configuration resembles a butterfly. Next to it, you can see the brightest star in the sky, Sirius.
It is also known as the "Dog star", because it seems to follow Orion, the hunter.

So just start singing the song. " ... way up high they like to fly, the dog and butterfly. Were getting older, the world is getting colder, for the life of me, I don't know the reason why ..."

You see, my friend, most of our struggles and searches have been done before. If we could just discover these hard-won truths, we could save a lot of time in the search, and spend more time in the reverie, far, far from the madding crowd.

Joey said...

bit choppy. Doesn't flow quite right. But, interesting though.
...damn lights. lol

Lanie Painie said...

Thanks for sharing your day with us.

Ricardo said...

i have to say that i am also pretty obsessed with lighting, it is one of my biggest pet peeves when i go to peoples houses and i feel they are lit incorrectly...look how much it does for Oprah, you know miss Sofia doesn't look that good all the time...anyways Julia, having had "Letting go of God" in my ipod for the last 4 years (and harrassing people to buy it), i am so happy to see it on Showtime, i feel like: "We did it!", even though you did it. I am a huge fan and wait patiently for every posting on your blog, =)...no pressure though, =)Love ya!!!

rachel421 said...

True to life, as things get a bit choppy and the flow isn't quite right on so many occasions.

Great navigating through those moments Julia, the good and the bad. When you can blend the possibly cataclysmic with the simple joys of family interaction, it creates a very poignant snapshot of real day of a real human being.

p.s. those gowns are for the birds!

Robin said...

Bubba77, thanks for reminding me what a beautiful song Dog and Butterfly is. I never knew about the backstory :)

Julia, Thanks for sharing your day. I blog and sometimes I find that it is hard to step out and write and not conceal my feelings. I like that you tell the truth, no matter what that truth is. And that damn mammogram...I am due also. Guess I better go get it done!

TimmyB (Not the religious Timmy) said...

Thanks for blogging, Julia. What a great idea to limit a student child's TV watching to Friday nights. I could have done so much better in school had I practiced that. Unfortunately, I became a TV addict and my idea of high culture is Sid & Marty Krofft.

Anonymous said...

Don't put staples in the microwave.

munsongs said...

Hey, I'm going to be performing with you at the thing you're doing at The Fitz! I'm the music part... but seeing that you sing (I have been looking around on-line trying to learn what the various guests who are coming to Saint Paul might be interested in doing) "Is That All There Is," a favorite of mine, makes that very tempting. I saw also that you play with Jill Sobule, who my band, The New Standards, played with a little over a year ago in Central Park.

I look forward to meeting you and doing something cool in Minnesota (not hard in the winter... agggh).

Anyway, enjoyed your post.

Pier said...

I've just spent my days & nights off with my former Catholic turned Mormon, stroke survivor, needed cataract surgery, old gypsy (of the "Drag Me To Hell" variety) of a mother.

I only just wanted to get her new eye glasses for Christmas. But the opthalmologist told her they wouldn't help much because of her cataracts, which I never even knew she had. Thankfully, the surgery technology has grown exponentially in the last few years and it is a pretty easy procedure.

But, the eye drops schedule . . . now that's a different story. Plus, she doesn't have enough strength in her pinching fingers to squeeze the little sample to get the drops out. So, I wracked my brain to come up with a chart that will help her be able to follow the eye drop schedule and bought her needle-nose pliers for squeezing the drops.

She also has to wear an eye patch at night and she can't tape it on by herself. But I notice it had slots on the side, so I finally sewed elastic to it so that she can put it on like a kid's Halloween pirate patch.

I have 6 brothers and sisters, but all but one got the hell out of Dodge and live far away. My older sister is going to help with the second eye surgery in a week and a half. This is the sister that knew just how to push my buttons. She called me crazy and stupid and we would hit each other and go chasing through the house until I locked myself in the bathroom.

The old gypsy won't accept her limitations since her stroke 2 1/2 years ago, so she lies and tells people she has done certain things for her health when she hasn't really. She is extremely independent and oppositional. She doesn't want me to stay the night because she usually falls asleep in her chair after dinner while watching TV. Then, when she wakes up, she moves to her bedroom and watches British comedy til 11 or 12 and sets her radio before she falls asleep again for the 4 a.m. broadcast of Coast to Coast.

The problem is that she has to put in the eye drop at bedtime. She is disoriented when she wakes up in her chair and so she's mad at me for interrupting her independence and trying to get her to stay up until after her bedtime eye drop, then go to bed.

So . . . she stays up with me and goes into her bedroom at 10 p.m. and then turns on her radio loud enough so that I can hear it upstairs where I am sleeping. It is just static until 4 a.m. There are bits of music and talking that blare out from time to time and do not allow me any rest. I feel like I am a Branch Davidian during the FBI standoff in Waco.

This is my mother. The one that fought with her Catholic mother about religion after she joined the Mormon church and they didn't speak to each other for many many years.

So, I make sure to drink a lot of coffee while I'm at her house. Mormons don't drink coffee.

Anonymous said...

When I came home from my first mammogram at 36, a little early as problems run in the family, my husband asked, "how was it"? I said, "a little painful but they try to make you feel at ease and hire GQ looking male techs". I couldn't keep a straight face but his look was priceless! Thankfully the techs are warm (warm hands help also), caring women who put us at ease in the most uncomfortable examination!

mimimc said...

Hi Julia, I am normally not the kind of person who comments on blogs - I'm a natural lurker - but I was inspired to say thank you for sharing your day.

(Oddly I have had Winged Migration in my Netflix queue for a while, but I know I will be watching it alone because nobody here will want to watch it with me. And I just did that paper bag popcorn popping thing on Friday, too. I did not have a mammogram, though.)

polardan said...

Last night I finished "Fountainhead",it was a fast read and went along way to define a human's purpose within the context of reason. She spent a lot of time on issues of altruism and egotism. As I read tonight's posts I was reminded that when mysticism is taken out of life's puzzle, things like earthquakes and the beauty of Hawaii become crystal clear. Dan

Miss Ellie said...

One of my favorite life moments is standing in the Painted Desert one winter afternoon and listening to nothing but a mild breeze and perhaps a few birds in the distance. No people, no cars, no anything. It was probably the first time I'd felt the hugeness of the earth. As I get older I crave space and solitude even more.

I once saw a TV program on how our lives are cycles that extend to our physical bodies, as well. The old saw about how babies look like old men is also true in reverse. I think as we age we head toward that aloneness understanding on some primal level that we are born alone and we die alone and that both are intensely personal and difficult experiences.

My husband and I were musicians who played for a variety of churches over the years, Protestant, Catholic, and even some Jewish ceremonies. I often admired the community from afar, but inevitably ran right into the close up version of the individual members who no more represented the dogma they espoused than does old PR. Like you, I realized just how empty all that ritual is in the face of how horrible we are to each other. There should be a God. Some people just need their asses kicked.

Jeffrey said...

Julia, you are a joy. I have shared "Letting Go of God" with a few friends and family members and some really love it and the rest are afraid of it. I'm glad that you are going further with that show. It is odd to say this to an artist, but I think it is probably the piece of yours that will have the widest impact, if you are concerned about such things. Thank you for sharing your day and your occasional thoughts in your blog. You've made a difference in my life and I just wanted you to know.

Anna said...

I saw your film on showtime.
It was amazing.

But I am left with this depression.
How did you deal with the sadness of no longer having a God to pray to or believe in?

Kim Moldofsky said...

I hope you mammogram was clear. I also think the tech have an odd job and when I mentioned that at the beginning of the procedure (same place as you). Her response was quite curt, "I'm sorry you feel that way."

Jeez. I had offended her before she even put a hand on me. The rest of the time was spent in awkward silence. Thankfully it was quick!

Good luck with your show.

Elise said...

Always wear two gowns - one around the way they tell you and then one other like a dressing gown.

Anonymous said...

I watched your show on Showtime, and I do have to say that it was really creative. By the end of your program though I was quite sad and felt sorry for you. I hope that you find happiness in this life and the life to come.

Patricia McCoy said...

Hello,

I just watched, God said, "Ha!" It was absolutely wonderful. Many years later, I am sorry for the loss of your brother.

I was diagnosed w/ cervical cancer on 02/05 - I'm a few days shy of 42yrs old. Going in for my hyst. on 03/08. Hope I end up recovering as well as, it appears, you have.
I'm so scared and I try to not think about it, but as soon as I am done completing whatever it is I am doing, my mind goes right back.
I hope you are well. You truly are an inspriation.
In light & love.
Patti McCoy

Oz said...

Dear Ms. Sweeney...I've enjoyed your acting work and now found you here on blogspot. I googled you because I see you're a member of FFrF, as am I, and now have an even GREATER respect for you. I've a blog on blogspot, too: http://oz-valleydaze.blogspot.com. (if you're interested). Anyway, thanks for your support and voice. Blessings.

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mike said...

thank you for sharing your experience with us

miss sara said...

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Renee said...

Sounds like an interesting day. Nice post. Hope you mammogram came out clear !

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lisa said...

we make french toast with Chullah too! "Celebrate, it's Challah-Day!" I'll have to remember that one!

Julia, you're brilliant and an inspiration to all of us!

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